Non-League Schedule As Easy As A, B, C

So what if Washington chooses to down schedule and play a Hawaii or an Eastern Washington instead of playing 2-3 type A opponents in the same season. The most important consideration is the continued development of your team and that means qualifying for a bowl game and getting the 15 extra practices every year. That is the bottom line.

In order to go to bowls you need 6-7 wins. Because of how hard the league is, over-scheduling in your non-conference games can work against that goal.

The conference title is the goal, and then winning your bowl game is next. That and solid recruiting makes you a consistent winner, and that sells tickets and that gets you on television, and that pays the bills. It's a good business decision to schedule an A (top team), a B (middle team), and a C (lower team) for your three none league encounters.

Heck, we all know how the SEC and Big-12 and Big-10 schedule their pre-seasons - just look at their schedules.

For decades, balanced scheduling had made the Huskies a strong football program. Mike Lude, an ex-football coach himself, knew it when he came to Washington. He knew how to schedule the middle and lower levels of the Big 10 and Big 12 so he was still getting a little name recognition. Because of his understanding of the game he knew how to balance the schedule with definite winnable games. Then they would play someone big before starting into league.

Barbara Hedges started the play-for-pay scheduling by playing two to three (A's) and not understanding what it does to a football team. Nobody in the conference, with the obvious exception of USC, has played the caliber of out of league opponents that the Huskies have over the past 15 years and I have always felt it was detrimental to the development of our squads.

To over-schedule just because of a name recognition opponent and the accompanying TV revenue can hurt you in many more ways than it benefits you.

A football season is a long grind, and developing your team is critical for continuing success. Remember when we won the National Championship we played Toledo and Kansas State. Now I view Kansas State as a B-level opponent but Toledo has to be considered a C-level team. You never want to schedule 2 A-level teams in the same season simply because you get too beaten up. Heck, when we went to the Orange Bowl and almost won another national title we played Northwestern (B), Houston (B), and Miami (Ohio) (C).

We've played Pacific a number of times and they don't even play football anymore. We've played San Jose State, San Diego State, East Carolina, Bowling Green and even lost to Nevada. Those schools are all B or C-level teams and we gave them good money to come to Seattle. You play those sorts of opponents to get wins, play a lot of kids, and not get hurt. Parity in college football has made it so even a C-level team isn't the gimme win it once was.

Look what happened against Notre Dame. The Huskies lost one kid for the season to a broken leg and two others got knocked silly and may be lost for the next game. The next game, by the way, is against an Arizona team that opened the season against Central Michigan and Northern Arizona, and NAU happens to be in the same league with Eastern Washington and Portland State. So, they come into this game already 4-1 and are only 2-3 wins from becoming bowl eligible with two-thirds of the season remaining.

Did you notice who Florida opened with, or better yet who ASU opened with? The Sun Devils beat Idaho State (who I think just lost to Central Washington) and Louisiana-Monroe, whoever they are. California has lost 2 in a row to the two best teams in the conference but they still sit at 3-2 and in great position to make a bowl in spite of it. Why? Because they also played Eastern Washington and got to look at a lot of their depth players by doing so.

They also put over a third of a million dollars in Eastern's athletic budget to help them pay for their student athletes, just like Washington did for Idaho - in fact Idaho got nearly twice that much. Believe me, these lower level schools really need the money for their operating costs. Playing down is really a share the wealth thing with the non-BCS level schools. It is a way for the haves to help the have-nots and it is an opportunity for those schools to pull the big upset.

Sure the kids at those lower schools are overmatched but that also happens all the time in high school football. Besides, you never can tell when the next Appalachian State will rise up, and believe me it was a thrill for the Idaho kids to come to Seattle and play in Husky Stadium.

Oregon State figured this out about eight years ago and guess what has happened? They go to bowl games now and have progressively gotten better by getting the necessary wins to be bowl eligible and thereby getting those extra practices. Oregon State, by the way, has been playing both Eastern and Portland State for years.

How good would your team be if you had twice as many spring practices? You only get 15 practices in spring, but you get 15 in a bowl preparation too. We always did special periods for our younger kids during every bowl practice. We also moved kids around and it gave us a chance to look at other parts of our team.

We moved Jerramy Stevens, for example, from quarterback to tight end and Khalif Barnes from defensive line to offensive line. The results were that both made a lot of money because of it in the long term and the Huskies became a better team in the short term.

Last year the Huskies played three A-level teams in BYU, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. What were the results? Three losses and no chance of recovering because they lost Jake Locker the very next game.

Face it, football is a money-making sport. It is a big time entertainment industry. Heck, years ago we only played 10 games per year, but now it's up to 12 and it has been to 13 or 14. Why? Because of the money, that's why.

It is simply stupid to beat up your team in the pre-season or the non-league part of your schedule. The goal of post-season play is a part of playing at the highest level of college football. When the season is all over nobody cares who you played or how you got there as long as you have a winning season.

Look at Kansas last year or even LSU for that matter. Both played cupcake schedules, and Kansas was ranked as high as third in the country because of it. Look who USC has opened with the past two years, Hawaii and San Jose State. Why? Because they can, that's why.

Everyone who plays Army or Navy is padding their schedule because those military academies are at a distinct disadvantage. Don't even begin to say that those games don't draw fans either because the biggest recorded crowd in Husky history wasn't against Miami or Nebraska or Michigan. It was against Army in 1995 when 76,125 fans showed up.

In 2000, 70,117 showed up for the opener against Idaho and in 2002, over 70,000 showed up for both San Jose State and Wyoming. If you schedule them for the opening two games you will always get a good crowd, no matter what. Fans want to see victories and smart fans understand what they're getting - a W. It's just greedy fans and greedy AD's that want you to always play powerhouses. It might be fun in the short term, but it doesn't make your program better for the long run. Practices make your team better.

Dropping BYU from a second home-home series is no different than us being dropped by Wisconsin years ago because we were too good. It's a compliment to them but it's really about doing what is right for your kids and winning games is always the most-important thing in the sport of football, because everything else follows.


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